The Take a Sip Punctuation

Posted on November 3, 2011


In comedy, there are many differences between the written and the spoken word.  One of my favorite kinds of humor is the paraprosdokian, a figure of speech where the latter part of the sentence changes what you had expected based on the first part.

If there’s one thing I really like about him…I can’t think of it.

These require a bit of a pause between the two halves and this is much easier to indicate in spoken comedy than in written comedy.  I use these all the time in spoken conversation, and I like to clear my throat, or swallow, or take a sip of a drink to give the listener at least two to three seconds between halves because we’re trained to skip ahead and assume what’s coming next.

If there’s one thing I can’t stand about black people…(take a sip of my drink)…that would make me a racist.

This gives the listener enough time to assume the worst or assume the best before I go in the opposite direction.  Unfortunately, the written word doesn’t seem to have any punctuation that does the paraprosdokian justice because readers won’t pause long enough at a comma, dash, colon, semicolon, or ellipses to give the brain enough time to make any headway in the wrong direction.

I’m open to any suggestions for new punctuation that will indicate the reader should unassumingly think about the first part for two to three seconds before moving on.  Think about all the comedic possibilities for the written word if we could properly punctuate the following:

When I met your new boyfriend, at first I didn’t like him…(take a sip)…but then I got to know him better…(clear throat)…and felt even better about my first impression.

Things may seem bad now, but after a good night’s sleep and a chance to think things through…(take a sip)…you’ll understand how screwed you really are.

That dress is such a great color…(take a sip)…for someone with darker hair than yours.

Every cloud has a silver lining…(take a sip)…is what people will stop saying after they hear about your situation.

I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy…(take a sip)…until I’d tried it out on you first.

Hate is such a strong word…(take a sip)…which is why I choose that word.

He had a face only a mother could love…(take a sip)…which is how he realized he was adopted.

If there’s anything you need or any way to help or you just need to talk…(take a sip)…why not give your parents a call?

As you may have guessed, I end up finishing my drinks pretty fast.  By the way, I’m not big on insults and wouldn’t actually say any of these to anyone, but I do like the literary possibilities.  Any punctuation suggestions?

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